Friday, July 16, 2010

What's In A Name?

'What's In A Name?' is both the first chapter in the book Baby Names For Dummies by Margaret Rose, PhD and the heading for a recent article in the Birmingham News publication EXTRA written by Mary Stancill. Both the book and the article examine the trends, statistics and psychology of selecting first names.

First names always fascinated me and as a Children's Librarian I see lots of babies. I never fail to ask the babies names and more times than not how it was selected. The explanations are always interesting. Some names are passed down through families, some pay homage to favorite book characters, TV, movie, sports stars, and I have even meet babies named for football teams and coaches.

From these two publications I am reminded social psychologies also are interested in first or given names. They look at three main trends in name selection. Ethnicity, socio-economic status and social norms. Some names are specific to an ethnic group. Repeated exposure to some names especially through literature and media results in a lot people being drawn to them and some names trickle down to us from the wealthy. Then there is the relatively new trend they see of the selection or creating of a 'unique' name.

So what is in a name? in Ms. Stancill's article she made reference to the proverb 'a good name is more desirable than great riches' which I am pretty sure is speaking to the character associated with an individuals name not it's popularity still while the affects of and to what degree a name has on a person it is given is being debated maybe names should be selected wisely.

Earlier I did mentioned I was a librarian right? May I suggest a few books to help you if you find yourself in this process of choosing a name for your new baby. The Everything Baby Names Book by June Rifkin includes the traditional origin of the name and meaning of the name but also has a Top Ten Things to Consider when choosing a name. Baby Names for Dummies by Margaret Rose, PhD includes a similar origin and meaning of the names and also chapters on names through the ages and one with the ten practices to avoid. Dictionary of First Names by Alfred Kolatch includes 'more than 10,000 names', I did not count them. It has the standard origins of the name, variations of the name and spelling found in most baby name books. It divides the names in to masculine names and feminine names. The First Name. A Concise Dictionary has a bit more detailed origin of the name, various spellings and meaning. A nice touch is it simply list names alphabetically and uses the symbol for male and female to indicate the sex traditional associated with the name. These are just a few of the books on the subject you can find at the Homewood Public Library in the Children's Department Parenting section.

Does the name we give our children affect their life? I cannot say but research does indicate they do. I will leave you with this. I was a Child Development major at Auburn University when I was pregnant with my daughter. After I heard a child psychologist speak on this subject I spent a lot of time thinking about names. I weighted the merits of a strong traditional name with something unique to help her stand out from the crowd. In the end I choose her name after a visit to the beautiful Italianate Kendall Manor in Eufaula, Alabama. It was chosen because I like name and its association with something beautiful. Go figure. But I must add twenty four years later my daughter, the one named for that beautiful Italianate Manor graduated from Auburn with a Degree in Architecture. See you at the library!

~ Miss Dona ~

If you would like to put a hold on Baby Names for Dummies by Margaret Rose, click here.

And if you are curious, here are the top ten baby names of 2009 for Alabama according to the Social Security Administration:

1. William
2. James
3. Jacob
4. Jackson
5. John
6. Joshua
7. Jayden
8. Christopher
9. Michael
10. Ethan

1. Emma
2. Madison
3. Isabella
4. Ava
5. Anna
6. Addison
7. Olivia
8. Chloe
9. Abigail
10. Emily

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